Rosewood Studio, Week 5 – Drawer making

Week 5 of my 6 week study at Rosewood Studio was focused on drawer making.  A whole week to build a drawer?  Well when it’s made of solid wood and fitted to a shaker table, it takes a little longer than simply slapping some metal drawer slides onto an mdf box like ikea does…  Unlike ikea, the drawer front won’t fall off in a year, nor will the bottom sag, and the slightest bit of water won’t turn the entire thing into a pile of wet sawdust….

First part of this week involved fitting some runners for the drawer in my shaker table.  I used walnut simply because it matched the table and I had a bunch of scraps left over, however this part isn’t visible unless you are lying on the ground underneath the table.  Next it was onto the drawer building.

The drawer was made of walnut with a piece of birds eye maple for the front.  The sides are dovetailed (half blind on the front), and the drawer bottom is a few pieces of solid walnut laminated together to form a panel.  The front of the bottom panel is glued with the back edge being left unattached  for seasonal expansion and contraction.

Birds eye maple, while beautiful to look at, can be a bit of a pain to work with.  This particular piece had some cracks and of course very curly grain which made smoothing it very trying, however after many passes with a high angle plane and a card scraper (and some light sanding), it was eventually made smooth.  I spent almost an entire day perfecting this piece of wood, only to ruin it by cutting on the wrong side of the lines for my dovetails.  Thankfully the second attempt went much quicker.

Fitting the drawer was very finicky.  Not only does it need to slide in and out smoothly, but the reveal around the drawer opening has to be identical (9000ths of an inch).  While it was a huge pain to do, I was very pleased with the results and can honestly say I have never owned a piece of furniture that had such a smooth drawer!

The drawer was finished off with a simple walnut pull turned on the lathe.  I really enjoyed the lathe work (all 5 minutes of it… after-all it was only a pull), hopefully I can afford one in the future to add to my shop.  I put several layers of shellac on the drawer front and pull, but left the sides and bottom natural.

Next week is my last at Rosewood!  It’s gone so fast, wish I could stay for another 6!

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Rosewood Studio, Week 3 – Shaker Side Table

After getting a grasp on hand tools and machines in week 1 and 2, we put all our new knowledge to good use this week making a shaker side table.  We had to follow a set design (way too difficult to have each student doing their own thing), but we were free to chose whichever wood combination we liked best.  Ron gave some good input into what combinations work best, and really helped me to get the most pieces out of the least amount of wood, saving me some $$$ in the end.  While all tools are supplied at school, you do have to pay for your own lumber which you can either bring yourself, or buy from the school (rates are competitive with local shops).

The table is 18″ square at the top and includes a 3″ drawer (to be made in a future week).  I decided to make mine out of Black Walnut, a favourite wood of mine.  While some people like to avoid the light coloured sapwood of walnut, I love the contrast and chose my pieces in order to highlight it.  For the drawer front, there was a piece of curly birdseye maple that was just asking to be used.

While this seems like a simple table, it did take most of the week to get all the parts milled to size and all the joinery cut.  The aprons of the table are held together with mortise and tenon joints, while the top is held on with screws in oblong holes from the stretchers below.  Besides a few screws in the top, everything else is held together with wood glue.  The glue up was a little harry as I had a bit of twist to deal with, but nothing that a half a dozen clamps couldn’t fix…

The finish is about 12 coats of blonde shellac, padded on over several days.  I may still put a coat of poly or varnish on the top of the table to give it some more durability.

What I really liked about this week was learning all the steps and proper order of operations to be able to finish a project like this.  Knowing which parts to cut first and when parts should be finished made a huge difference in completing this project.  For instance, the entire table had finish applied before I glued it up, as many of the parts would be hard to access once it was assembled.  I also liked how Ron was very approachable with questions on how I might apply these techniques to my own projects down the road.

Next week we’re on to joinery!